Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez both hit home runs for the Yankees on Tuesday. (AP)
As the Yankees have chugged along in their 15-6 August, they have excelled without major contributions from their top players.
Though some key performers remain on the injured list, others had been scuffling as the season approached the stretch run. Now, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez each look to have found their swing and could be barreling toward a strong finish to the season.
Judge's turnaround began against the Indians over the weekend. Beginning on Aug. 6 in Baltimore, the 6-foot-7 slugger endured a 4-for-37 slide with just one extra-base hit, though he still walked seven times. Aaron Boone stood steadfast behind his star right fielder, knowing a resurgence was right around the corner.
"The game is hard and over the course of a season, it gets the greatest of players, which certainly Judgey is," Boone said after a loss last Thursday. "I'm confident he'll grind his way through it and hopefully soon."
Boone's faith was rewarded the next night. Facing Indians rookie Adam Civale, Judge hit three balls over 90 mph, including two above 103 mph, and produced a single, double and walk in four impressive plate appearances. After a day off, Judge continued to rake, this time pulling a hard double against Indians All-Star closer Brad Hand.
He followed that up with a monster solo homer out west against the Athletics that traveled 467 feet with a 116-mph exit velocity.
The double and home run provided another breakthrough as both were pulled to left field. Before Tuesday, Judge had yet to hit a home run to the pull side this season, the only player with at least 10 homers who hadn't done so. Those bullets off the bat assuage concerns about holes in his swing or lingering injuries. His approach still looked good in his 0-for-5 performance Wednesday.
Even beyond his brief slump and lack of a gargantuan home run total, Judge still has the highest average exit velocity in baseball by a fair margin this year.
Meanwhile, Sanchez found himself in a long slump of his own before he went on the injured list in July. For the month, he batted .102 and hit too many ground balls, unable to take advantage of his prodigious power.
With Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka raking in his stead, Sanchez had the luxury to wait until he fully healed. Now, the Kraken is not only back to full health but back into the swing of things (pun intended).
In nine games since coming off the injured list, Sanchez has already tallied four home runs and is hitting .278/.381/.639 with a 162 wRC+, well above even his red-hot month of May.
Most importantly, he's found the key to his first-half turnaround: Fly balls. He's again avoiding groundballs, which tend to be outs for him, and is back to hitting line drives, some of which are carrying out of the park.
The impact Sanchez and Judge can have when they're both mashing at once shouldn't be forgotten. They've pulverized regular season opponents and earned postseason victories as well when they're each hitting.
Now, the Yankees simply have to hope they can keep the duo in form for the rest of the season -- and primed for a run through October.